The Secret Runners of New York – Matthew Reilly

Rumours of an impending global apocalypse don’t stop the young elite of New York from partying. A newcomer to the Manhattan elite scene, Skye Rogers is shocked when she’s invited to join a secret club who call themselves the Secret Runners of New York. And what do the runners do? Why, they run through an underground portal that transports them years into the future, of course. But what they discover about the future is truly horrifying, and even the rich can’t survive the end of the world.

Okay, so this is quite a difficult book to review. To be honest, it was pretty terrible, but I enjoyed it. There are so, so many things wrong with The Secret Runners of New York: the key things being the dreadful characters, the number of elements that simply didn’t make sense, and most of all, the frankly disgusting attitudes towards mental health throughout the book.

Let’s begin with the characters. They suck. I know the main characters are all spoilt, rich socialites and are therefore supposed to be superficial and detached from reality, but the way they’re completely insistent on maintaining their social standing and bullying their inferiors despite knowing for a fact that the apocalypse is coming and half of them are going to be dead in just a few days was completely unbelievable. Secondly, they’re clearly modelled on the kinds of characters we know (and love) from the likes of Gossip Girl, but with the unavoidable difference that the Gossip Girl upper East-siders were funny and likeable as well as being flawed. The Secret Runners, on the other hand, are lacking any redeeming features to make them remotely likeable. Even Skye, who I think is supposed to be kind of nice.

Moving on to the plot, I thought the actual story was OK. I loved the gamma cloud idea for ending the world, and that element seemed pretty well thought out. What I didn’t love was that there was no point to the runs that the runners did. Why didn’t they explore outside of the tunnel sooner? What’s the point in just running through a tunnel over and over again, even if you are technically also travelling through time?

Finally, the most problematic element to this book: Mental health. In lots of cases, the abuse directed at characters with mental health issues come from the more snooty and judgemental characters, which can be forgiven because, as already discussed, they are horrible people. However, the author’s treatment of the survivors of the gamma cloud with mental health problems or a reliance on medication as psychos and savages is unacceptable.

Also, a middle-aged man has no business writing from the point of view of a teenage girl, as is clearly demonstrated in the scene where Skye finds Misty crying in a cubicle, holding her blood-stained shorts after getting her period unexpectedly.

And yet, I enjoyed reading it.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Survivors – G.X. Todd

44594516._SY475_In Book #3 of The Voices, the war between people who hear voices and those who don’t is coming to a head. When Pilgrim wakes up in a shallow grave, he can’t remember who he is or how he got there. But there is a voice in his head which tells him what he needs to do: Find Lacey. As Pilgrim travels north in search of Lacey, he finds himself back in places he had long forgotten, with people he had left far behind. War is coming, and he will need all the friends he can get.

Survivors is the third book in one of my favourite series of all time. The characters are unbelievably good – I was beyond happy to have Pilgrim back (apologies for the slight spoiler, but yes, Pilgrim is alive), though I did miss Lacey in this book. But that’s part of the brilliance of this series. Each book so far has focused on different characters so, although I missed reading about some of my favourites, the story stays fresh and interesting.

It is 100% necessary to read the first two books before this one: it would not work at all as a standalone novel. It had been quite a long time for me between reading this book and the previous, and I did struggle a bit at times to remember who was who – because we do meet characters that we’ve come across before. Luckily, the story is so good that, in the end, it didn’t really matter that I was a bit lost at times. I completely loved it.

Todd’s writing is phenomenal, and has only improved book-by-book. The world-building and character development go a long way to create a totally immersive reading experience. Plot-wise, not a huge amount actually happens until later in the book. Instead, we get an insight into Pilgrim’s past and how he got to where he is now. But the lack of a completely action-packed plot does not lesson how good this book is at all. If anything, the change of pace from books 1 and 2 worked remarkably well.

The Voices is a must-read series for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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We Call It Monster – Lachlan Walter

43925127._SY475_One day, an enormous creature crawled out of the ocean and destroyed a city. Soon, more creatures emerged and all humanity could do was try to stay alive. In the years that follow, humans must learn to adapt to survive in a new world, where they are not in control.

We Call It Monster is a very original Godzilla-style story. It is told in chunked time segments (years 1-5, 6-10, etc), and follows a range of different characters in more of an anthology style as opposed to a linear story-line. I believe the same characters are followed throughout the book, but it wasn’t always clear to me at all that they were the same characters, because they time jumps were quite big and the characters didn’t necessarily go by the same name in every chapter. Because of this, I didn’t feel there was much character development, or have any particular attachment to any of the characters. It all felt a little bit disjointed and didn’t flow particularly well for me.

That being said, the author has managed to take quite a common theme and create a truly original story which explores the effect these massive monsters have on society and the people left to survive in their wake.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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My Name is Monster – Katie Hale

40951767.jpgThe Sickness and the bombs have killed off the last of humanity, leaving only Monster, emerging from the arctic vault that kept her alive. Believing she is now alone in the world, Monster washes up on the coast of Scotland and begins the long journey back to her parent’s house. One day, she finds a girl. Naming the girl after herself and changing her own name to Mother, she tries to teach the girl everything she knows. But young Monster has her own desires that are very different to those of the Mother who made her, but didn’t create her.

The dynamic of this book – being a mother and young daughter in a post-apocalyptic landscape – bears some similarities to Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. It isn’t doing anything particularly new, but it is well-written and convincing enough to remain engaging throughout.

The back-story was extremely vague which I didn’t love. The causes of the apocalypse are only alluded to, in reference to the Sickness and the war, but the full story of what happened is never told. In some cases, this can add a level of intrigue or highlight that the point of the story is now not then, but in this case it felt more like the author just hadn’t really thought that much about that part of the story.

However, I did enjoy Monster’s story. Especially the first half, before she finds Monster Jr and becomes Mother. I found it difficult to empathise with either character. They both felt quite one dimensional, despite the quite obvious intention for them to be complex, but it was a good read nonetheless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Last – Hanna Jameson

41132572Jon Keller was on a trip to Switzerland when the world ended. Without phone service or an internet connection, he doesn’t know whether his wife and kids survived. He and the other people remaining in his hotel wait for help that never comes. Then, one day, the body of a little girl is found. It’s clear she’s been murdered, so Jon decides to investigate. Is one of his fellow survivors a killer?

I really loved the idea of this book: A murder mystery set during the end of the world. And it turned out to be even better than I expected. The murder mystery aspect gets quite a lot of attention towards the beginning of the book, but then it does sort of drop away and become about the character’s survival in the months after the world has ended. Which is totally fine by me, because it turns out I love apocalyptic fiction.

Jon isn’t always the most likeable character, but he feels very real. The story is told from his point of view, as a kind diary of events because he’s a historian and he feels someone should write down a record of the end of the world. The first-person narrative was really effective in this context. There’s also quite a good range of other characters to fill out the story – all of whom can be believed to be surviving an apocalypse.

The Last is a really solid, well-written piece of fiction. I enjoyed every page.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Sea of Rust – C. Robert Cargill

32617610.jpgThirty years since the humans lost the war against artificial intelligence, not a single human remains. But the robots do not live in peace. Two powerful supercomputers wage war against each other, absorbing free robots into enormous networks known as One World Intelligences (OWIs). Brittle is one such free-bot fighting to remain autonomous, picking apart robot carcasses in the sea of rust to find the parts she needs to survive.

Post-apocolyptic, robot stories are not uncommon, but Sea of Rust somehow manages to bring something fresh to the genre. The personalities of the robots are complex and engaging (my favourite: the Cheshire King), bringing humour and tenderness to an otherwise quite dark story.

The AIs did appear to be surprisingly unintelligent. In a world inhabited entirely by robots, it didn’t make that much sense that they didn’t manufacture new parts themselves, or that they didn’t all reach the same calculated conclusions on how to live peacefully. On the whole, they acted an awful lot like the humans they had wiped out.

Other than that, the story (in my opinion) was very well thought out and believable. Every element of the story of the destruction of humanity and the rise of the robots makes complete sense and is entirely (and rather scarily) plausible. It is only the robot’s failure to survive afterwards that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

There is a lot of action and drama. Sea of Rust would make an excellent movie.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Space Between the Stars – Anne Corlett

30981910After a deadly virus has hit Earth and spread to the surrounding colonies, Jamie finds herself completely alone. A distorted message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive. Determined to get back to Earth and find out, she finds other survivors and embarks on a journey to get back home.

This is quite an unusual post-apocalyptic story. It’s about survivors travelling towards somewhere, although they’re not entirely sure where. Some of them are looking for somewhere to start over, one is looking for a loved one, others are just making the journey because they don’t have anything else to do. It explores themes of belief and religion, in an end-of-world setting.

The characters are quite mixed. We have a vet, a preacher, a scientist, a prostitute, an autistic boy, an engineer and a captain. Along the way, they meet desperate men, those in charge, period enactors, and a girl who would rather communicate online. Many different perspectives are explored, and it is very interesting.

However, the main character was extremely dislikeable and she made the book quite painful to read at times.

It is an interesting and thought-provoking book but could have benefitted from less focus on the main character’s personal relationships.

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Hunted – GX Todd

34209822In book #2 of The Voices series, it seems everyone is searching for Lacey. Albus, a man with no voice of his own, is led by the voice of his lost sister with one goal: find and protect the martyr. He and his friends must find her, before anyone else does. Before Posy, and the evil voice inside him – The Other – can.

This series is so good, omg. I can’t even tell you. I’ve seen surprisingly few post-apocalyptic books around recently, and The Voices is based on a really scary and interesting concept: voices in our heads that caused humanity to break down and drove huge numbers of people to kill themselves. It is terrifying and super interesting.

But not only is the concept great, so is the story. I was a tiny bit disappointed at first that the story wasn’t being told from Lacey’s point-of-view (like book #1 is), but after a while, I realised that this was actually a good thing. Firstly, it gave the book a fresh angle. Secondly, I got a bit of a YA vibe from Defender, although it isn’t a YA book. This time, that vibe was gone. I think this was down to the story being told from the point of various adults so, as much as I love Lacey, that teen-vibe was gone – which, for this kind of book, was a good thing.

The characters in this book are just fantastic. Lacey and Voice in particular, but every single character (even the awful, mean ones) bring important something to the story. Also – no spoilers – but EEK big news regarding one of my other favourite characters! Book #3 right now please!!

Basically, you have to read this book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Defender- G X Todd

29758033In a world where the voices inside people’s heads lead to mass suicide and murder, the few that are left struggle to survive. A lone traveller comes across a young girl selling lemonade at the edge of the road. That chance meeting joins the pair together in an epic journey facing horror and violence, friendship and family, and the voices in our heads.

I am a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, and Defender is up there with the best. It isn’t as dark or emotional as the likes of The Road, but doesn’t sugar-coat the horror aspects either. It actually has quite a YA vibe, with a strong female heroine and playful relationships between characters, but then some very violent aspects which make it difficult to put into the YA genre. (An aspect I particularly enjoyed was the lack of romance. Romance following an apocalypse always seems absurd and unnecessary to me, but for some reason so many authors feel the need to put it in. Not Todd – thank goodness!)

I really liked both Lacey and Pilgrim. And the bad guys were good bad guys (if you get what I mean: they were evil and scary without being caricatures). I felt Alex was a bit superfluous, but I imagine she’ll be built up more in the next book. After all, this is only Book #1.

Defender is well-written, intelligent and completely absorbing. The story is heading in a really interesting direction, with lots of unanswered questions and a really well set up plot for the rest of the series, so I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book. Without giving away too much, I can tell you there are some serious ‘NOOOO!’ moments. I’m still in recovery.